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26 July 2017

Spain: unions want the repeal of article 315.3 of the Penal Code

In June 2017, two trade unionists from the trade union UGT will stand trial for having participated in a strike picket. The prosecution is asking a 7 years prison sentence. The workers were arrested and charged with interfering with ‘the right to work’, under an article of the penal code dating from the Franco era. Trade unions UGT and CC.OO have started a campaign to defend the right to strike.

The two unionists participated in 2012 to a peaceful union picket that was broken up by the police. They were arrested and later on accused and prosecuted. This is not an unique case; on 16 February 2016 a court acquitted eight trade unionists, members of the industrial branch of trade union Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO. de Industria) and the Metalworkers and Construction Industry branch of the Unión General de Trabajadores (MCA-UGT), facing prison terms of over 8 years for participating in the 2010 general strike against the government's austerity measures. The workers were accused of attacking the riot police and were charged under Article 315.3 of the Spanish Penal Code, which makes provisions for prison sentences for picketing trade unionists. After vehement solidarity protests by trade unions and the international labour movement, the workers were acquitted for ‘lack of evidence’ on 18 February 2016.

In recent years, hundreds of Spanish trade unionists who took part in the general strikes of 2010 and 2012 continue to face prosecution and lengthy prison terms under this article of the penal code. In July 2014, thousands of workers took part in a rally in Madrid to protest the arrest and possible imprisonment of the workers. In the meantime, the Spanish unions UGT and CC.OO have launched a campaign to generate pressure to the government to drop the ongoing criminal cases against citizens, workers and trade unionists who took part in the anti-austerity strikes and demonstrations and to eliminate Article 315.3 from the penal code.

The campaign started with an initiative for a proposed Bill to repeal article 315.3. A first modification in 2015 slightly softened prison penalties but the crime remained typified. In 2016, a motion was approved in the Employment Committee of the Congress asking the government to repeal article 315.3. On 16 May 2017, a legislative proposal has been presented and admitted in first reading with the support of all the parliamentary groups, except those of the Partido Popular and Foro Asturias, which voted against, and Ciudadanos, which abstained. The draft proposes the acquittal in pending cases and the overturn of past convictions based on the article.

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